Works on paper in the Pinós Galery

The works on paper of Benjamín Palencia (born in Barrax, Albacete in 1894 and died in Madrid 1980) not as famous as his canvas work, has his own history, independent and with great interest by itself. The long and productive life of the artist (his first drawing date from 1912 and the last ones from 1979) and a restless artistic spirit – art as a constant creation- make these tour, apart of being extens, rich in diversity of styles, themes and techniques. These diversity can be appreciated in the works that make up this exposition, dated between 1913 and 1972.

Palencia was not a painter with a thorough preparation, that’s the reason why there are really no preparatory sketches between his work on paper and his work on canvas. Naturally, there are some themes and styles that he captured both in paper and canvas, considering both types of work at the same level, only executed with different materials. Is the case of work number 17, called “Interior de molino” (“Inside the mill”) which reproduces the same scenery, although with different characters, as an oil painting with the same title nowadays exposed in the museum of Albacete.

Installed in Madrid from 1909-1910, his powers of observation led him to portray people and typical situations of Madrid at that time. This first stage, 1912-1920, is represented in the exposition by some notable examples from different series- some with traces of the bomb that fell on Palencia’s studio at the beginning of the Civil War- starting with small drawings of childrens ( and their caregivers )(no. 1-3) in invisible parks made between 1913 and 1915 with some basic material, pen or charcoal on a simple paper from a notebook. In spite of his simplicity – or synthesis in the words of Juan Ramón Jiménez- it already shows his skills to reflect the posture and movement. Some of these drows would be later published by Juan Ramón Jiménez, the one who discovered Palencia, in his collection “Biblioteca de Índice” (“index library”) in a little picture book entitled, of course, “Niños” (”Childrens”)(1923), among them the number 2 of the present exhibition, “Muchacha con niño en brazos” (“young girl with child in her arms”)

Other series made between 1915 and 1920 catch ladies of the bourgeoisie at the palaces during concerts of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Madrid (no. 4- 7), and different characters in their moments of leisure at open air, in parks and boulevards (no. 8-12), some of them already showing his mastery of color. Reflecting also more popular environments, just like cards matches in taverns or picnics (no. 13-14), or the cafés ofthe gatherings (no. 15)

Although dated 1926, the work no. 16 , “Desnudo de espaldas”(“naked from behind”), belongs for shure to the natural drows group which he made in model classes of the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, during his short stay in Paris at the ending of 1925. Palencia stayed two months in the france capital, where he took the opportunity to see live all the european art for the late 19th century and early 20th century and to perfect the human figure drawing.

Palencia moved from the urban environments themes, about the decade of 1940, to more rural environments. Palencia focuses on the field in a special way, but not exclusive, in the surroundings of Madrid- Vallecas, Vicálvaro- portraying characters, animals and rural landscapes (no. 17-21): farmers inks, knights, sheeps, towns, mills,etc. As featured characters of these word, again childrens, children of Vallecas and Villafranca de la Sierra (Ávila), among those that are in the present exposition the sweet portrait of six children (no. 25), loose, agile, safe, the “Niño de la alpargata” (“child with espadrilles”)(no. 26), and an atypical “Niña de Vallecas” (“girl of Vallecas”)(no. 22), made by ink applied with brush, a very pleasant technique for Palencia, which he also used for “Los Ciegos” (“The Blind”)(no. 24), also for that time, but of very different character, also the same as “Mujeres con niños”(“Womens with childrens”)(no. 23)

Palencia’s drawings start to be so popular those years that the critic Eugeni d’Ors dedicate a few verses in “La Vanguardia” newspaper for him, at june of 1946:

“Benjamín Palencia ve, “Benjamín Palencia sees,

que es la mejor ciencia. which is the best science.

Por eso, de buena fe, Therefore, in good faith

yo alabo y alabaré I praise and will praise

los dibujos de Palencia.” Palencia`s drawings.”

The years 1947- 1949 suppose an important parenthesis for palencia’s work on paper, these are research years. He gives up with all the realism style from the past years and starts a more lucid style, a planned development to his oil art, infected with a new joy as tragedy of the Civil War star to stay in the past. It’s by these time when he starts, with other artist (especially Ángel Ferrant and Mathias Goeritz), to claim the prehistoric art – already claimed at the avant-garde stage in the decade of 1930- and the children’s drawing, taken Paul Klee as master. His childrens lost “seriousness”; some of them now seemed happy “toys” (no. 27 and 28) with a firm, clean, clear draw, style reflected in his second book about children, “Niños de mi molino” (“Children of my mill”), published by the Clan Gallery in february of 1948. The joy is also showed in his most realistic draws, just like the precious ink and brush made title “La niña sentada en el campo”(“The girl sit in the field”)( no.29)

Also from this time we have two good examples of draws with colour application, “Muchacha en rojo” (“Girl in red”) and “La niña Paula” ( “Paula the girl”) (no. 30 and 31), used to highlight figure or dynamism as well. He applies colour, like he did in his early days in drawing for magazines, by zones, without following the drawing outline (how would a child do?), getting some amazing effects. A similar technique is used in “Joven sentado”(“young man sitting”)(no. 35).

The most outstanding work of this period in the exposition is, without a doubt, the “Autorretrato”(“Self portrait”) from 1948 (no. 32), a mixt technique that, although of very different invoice, it reminds us hugely of the magnificent “Autorretrato”(self portrait) from 1920 now set in MNCARS. The work surprises for the wisdom it shows in achieving an effect of great plasticity and colorfulness, even with the predominance of muted tones, just with a little yellow and red.

It was a period rich in experimentation of new styles on paper, as the other two pieces of these years show in our exposition: “Dos cabezas” (“Two heads”)(no. 33), mixing the nib with brush strokes, and “Cafeteria”(no. 34).

Mid 50s appeared the first commercial markers, laller “magic markers”. Soon Palencia saw in them a useful instrument for his job, now done almost everything outdoors. The market provided him an easy to transport instrument to work in any situation. There are several pieces in which, alone or in combination with others, he used these technique: “La niña Maria Carmen”(“The girl Maria Carmen”)(no. 39), “Niños jugando”(“Children playing”)(no. 37), “Mula cargada” (“Carrying mule”)(no.46) and the extraordinary “Rostro áureo” (“Golden face”)(no. 49), in which , just like the mathematical formulas included in the draw, Palencia tried to make the face to fit in the indicated proportions by the gold number that he had studied in Matila Ghyka’s work.

Possibly from the 50s is the only example in the exposition of an oil painting over paper, a quick sketch of horses and a bull (no. 36). The agility of the stroke is clearly remarkable in the bull’s figure at first term.

Molino Holandes” (“Dutch mill”) (no.38) offers an interesting exemple about the application to drawing that palencia used in his work from the 20s, the “dripping”. About the realistic drawing of the mill with a sketchy panorama of a town in the background – Róteram raining – Palencia let it fall diluted ink drops bringing the effect of being behind a glass watching the scene, which may have been the situation while he was making the drawing.

Another interesting set of the exposition is formed by the three “Serafines”(no.41-43) in what is already a classic painting of Palencia, about the mature man watching the days go by in the open air. The set remarks the technical variety of Palencia’s work over paper: a pen nib, markers and a brush ink.

In the mid 60’s, Palencia started to stay in Alicante during winter, first in Altea and then in Polop de la Marina, inside the province. That’s how both the sea , “Cesta de frutas frente al mar” (“fruit basket facing the sea”)(no. 45) and the mountains of the Marina Baja, “Montañas”(“Mountains”)(no.50) appear in his work.

Three pen nibs complete the exposition – a Sunrise (“Amanecer”) with some sheeps in the foreground (no. 40), some Flowers (no. 44), common theme in someone who loved gardens and nature, and the Donkey (no. 48), that reminds us of his previous “Goldsmiths”- and a mixt technique, color pencils and pastel technique, “Rostro de mujer” (“woman’s face”)(no. 47), an epresionist face of a peasant woman who bring us to memory the Montserrat of Julio González.

I would like to conclude these presentation with the word of Rafael Alberti in his memoir “La arboleda perdida” (1975):

“Era Benjamín un trabajador infatigable, con cara e ingenuidad de campesino. Cuando mostraba sus dibujos- los hacía por miles-, empapelaba directamente el suelo del taller, quedando al visitante únicamente el minúsculo espacio de sus pies, imposibilitado de todo movimiento.”

“Benjamín was a really hard worker, with the face and naivety of a peasant. When he showed his drawings – he made thousands of them- he directly wallpaper the floor of his workshop, leaving only visible the tiny space of his feet, unable to move.”

These 50 paper draws from Benjamín Palencia, part of 20th century art history, are worth to enjoy the recovery of our movements after some really sad days that have allowed us to value even more the luxury of daily life and appreciate freedom art.

Ramón Palencia.



  1. Peinando a la niña (1913)
  2. Muchacha con niño en brazos (1915)
  3. Niños en parque (hacia 1915)
  4. Mirando desde el palco (hacia 1915-1920)
  5. Dama en el palco (hacia 1915-1920)
  6. En la Filarmónica (hacia 1915-1920)
  7. Damas en la Filarmónica (hacia 1915-1920)
  8. Mujer tejiendo (hacia 1915-1920)
  9. Mujer tejiendo (hacia 1915-1920)
  10. Mujer con parasol (hacia 1915-1920)
  11. Señora y niño en el parque (1915)
  12. Señora leyendo en el parque (hacia 1915-1920)
  13. En la taberna (1919)
  14. Jugando a las cartas (hacia 1919-1920)
  15. Mesa y silla de café (1920)
  16. Desnudo de espaldas (1926)
  17. Interior de molino (1940)
  18. Hombre de La Mancha (1942)
  19. Rebaño (1943)
  20. Caballerías (1944)
  21. Campesinos descansando (hacia 1940-1945)
  22. Niña de Vallecas (hacia 1940-1945)
  23. Dos mujeres con niño (1945)
  24. Los ciegos (hacia 1945)
  25. Grupo de niños(hacia 1945)
  26. El niño de la alpargata (1945)
  27. Muchacha (1947)
  28. Pastor (1947)
  29. Muchacha sentada en el campo (1949)
  30. Muchacha en rojo (1949)
  31. La niña Paulina (hacia 1948-1949)
  32. Autorretrato (1948)
  33. Dos cabezas (1949)
  34. Cafetera (hacia 1948-1950)
  35. Joven sentado (1950)
  36. Caballos y toro (hacia 1950)
  37. Niños ( hacia 1955)
  38. Molino holandés (1957)
  39. La niña Mari Carmen (1959)
  40. Amanecer (hacia 1960)
  41. Hombre con cayado (Serafín) (hacia 1960)
  42. Serafín con gato (1961)
  43. Serafín con maceta ( 1963)
  44. Flores (1965)
  45. Cesta de frutas frente al mar (hacia 1965)
  46. Mula cargada (1966)
  47. Rostro de mujer (1967)
  48. Burrito (1970)
  49. Rostro áureo (hacia 1970)
  50. Montañas (1972)